Barmitzvah at long last

By Jessica Elgot, May 12, 2011

Hollywood producer Branko Lustig, 78, has won two Academy awards, with prestigious production credits on Fiddler on the Roof, Sophie's Choice and Schindler's List. But the one thing Croatian-born Mr Lustig never had was a barmitzvah.

Aged 13 in 1945, he was in Bergen Belsen, and was later liberated by the British troops. But just before this year's March of the Living, in a ceremony at his former home, Barrack 24 in Auschwitz, Mr Lustig read from the Torah, the first barmitzvah at the camp. The ceremony was conducted by Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv Yisrael Meir Lau, himself a Holocaust survivor.

For Mr Lustig, the ceremony brought back memories of his childhood. "It was very emotional, when they opened the Torah in Auschwitz. My great-grandfather was a rabbi and my grandparents were very religious people. So when I did my barmitzvah, I felt like I was going back to this time. "

On the day of liberation, aged 13, Branko Lustig weighed just four and a half stone. He said: "For me to do this is my small contribution to making sure this will never happen again. Every person here will remember the March of the Living for the rest of their life."

Last updated: 3:39pm, May 12 2011